Saturday, December 22, 2018

Season's Greetings!

Years ago when I regularly began spending Christmas closer to the equator rather than looking out a window at a snow covered backyard, I marvelled at the seemingly preposterous habits of the locals - decorating the grills of their cars with red balls or entire wreaths; wooden reindeer frolicking next to the palm trees; people wearing Santa Claus hats; or just about anything else which seemed more appropriate for a winter scene than one with a white sandy beach.  Yet the allure of Christmas in almost any image is impossible to escape. Something penetrates the heart and awakens the soul. We need only remind ourselves of the trip across the desert on Christmas Eve.

I won't pretend that the nautical scene approaches the magic of what I consider the traditional wintry picture of Christmas but neither will I deny that either captures my imagination. The imagery of Christmas at any latitude is a settling - almost tranquillizing - sensation. Even as I write, regarding the purple sky of a late afternoon by the sea, listening to classic Christmas carols, my absorption in the seasonal mood is complete.

Everywhere today the burgeoning enchantment of Christmas was upon us. As we yet recover from the Winter Solstice the colours of the setting sun upon the limbs of the trees were soft as candlelight on a lady's porcelain-like arms. When we went grocery shopping earlier the aisles were crowded by young families of parents and children collecting mountains of provisions for their upcoming congregations. The staff at the nail salon this morning were equally buoyant with their plans for Christmas festivities.  It doesn't matter whether your rich or poor, north or south, hot or cold, the mystery of Christmas is pervasive!

The memory of childhood fantasies and excitement is similarly powerful. One cannot see children without imaging what they must be thinking! The recollections promote endless notions of family and friends no longer whinnying among us. Our more charitable instincts are likewise fuelled, making it a challenge to avoid the ringing bells of the Salvation Army volunteer.

The window of opportunity to show our beneficence and magnanimity is a narrow one.  Christmas cards - now mostly by email (but some still sent by regular post) - thrive in the days before December 25th.  And annual literary summaries of personal adventures and accomplishments. Is it any wonder our focus alters so radically throughout this brief period! No need to succumb to Scrooge - even he is part of the amazement! There is no alternative which defeats the temporary appeal of this annual event.

For a moment this afternoon I recalled the pleasures of a northern Christmas, not only in our own home with the Vermont casting glittering on the hardwood floor but also among the banks of snow in Northern Ontario with family friends; Midnight Mass with my maternal grandparents; restlessly lying in bed on Christmas Eve as a child; gathering with family and friends from afar for Christmas Eve dinner. We've very much diminished that view of Christmas but I haven't any wish to recapture it. The memories linger quite happily without my further disturbance.

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